Preparing for the Holidays

Dear friends,

What a weird year it’s been! It’s hard to believe that in just a couple of weeks 2020 will be over, and I’m praying for some sense of normalcy in the upcoming year. With the vaccines now being distributed, we are at last on the path to recovery. We will be celebrating by taking our very first family trip – Michael, me, my boys, and his two kids – to Savannah GA/Tybee Island at the start of the summer. We’ve rented the most beautiful house for a few days and are very much looking forward to the adventure!

Right now, I am battling the usual winter blues and preparing for the holidays, which for us begin this Friday. Friday night we are Christmas caroling with Michael’s parents and siblings. Then Saturday we are having our annual Christmas Cookie Swap party, although – as is the case with everything in 2020 – modified from usual. I normally have an extended group of friends in our area along with family members. But this year it just isn’t safe to have large gatherings, so we’re keeping it small – our close-knit main group of friends, which is nine of us in total – just making the limit of 10 for a gathering.

The challenge for me, being the only plant based one in the bunch, is to plan a spread that will provide plenty of options for me and still keep my carnivore friends happy as well. I’ve decided to lay out a large charcuterie spread on my kitchen island, which is a butcher block table. I’m doing the traditional meats and cheeses, plus a “pickle roll” requested by one of my friends (ham and cream cheese wrapped around pickles and cut like sushi). Then I’ll be adding crackers, toast, fruits, veggies, a variety of hummus dips, olives, and finishing it off with some chocolate covered pretzels and cracker sticks, and Christmas M&Ms.

Then of course, the cookies. I’m making my traditional sugar cookies, which are not vegan since they contain eggs. But I’m also making vegan raspberry thumbprints – not healthy since vegan butter is just a bunch of oil and of course there’s plenty of sugar and refined flour – but still animal- and cholesterol-free. Everyone else will be bringing different cookies too, so I will have a nice variety to mix and match for the family on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve we will be breaking the gathering of 10 rule by one – there will be 11 of us from my immediate family. I was hoping to get to have Christmas dinner a little early and make it 30 miles north to my hometown church to sing with the choir – we haven’t been singing all of this time, but the director is breaking us into groups of about 5 to sing for the Christmas masses – but it doesn’t look like it will happen. My sister, a 21-year-old college student working part time at Walmart, has to work until 3:00 so they (her, my mom and stepdad) won’t be down until around 7:00, and mass is at 8:00. The plus side is that I will have more time to get dinner, and myself, ready.

I’m again the only plant-based one in my family, so I’m planning a carnivore friendly dinner. I’m making my usual beef roast and a pork tenderloin. I’m doing two kinds of mashed potatoes – one with vegetable broth and almond milk, and one with rosemary and white cheddar. I’m making a stuffing using vegetable broth and sourdough bread with the traditional onion, celery and sage. Then green beans and corn to pair with it. Since I do eat a small amount of meat about once per week, I will save that day for Christmas Eve dinner and have one small piece of the pork tenderloin with all of the other plant-friendly sides.

Something I’m super excited about is my Christmas Eve outfit! I like to do a little vintage-y theme each year at Christmas, and this year I bought myself a little Christmas present (which is currently delayed, but my fingers are crossed it will be here before next Thursday)…a beautiful pair of white Tory Burch booties! Which will go with a solid white sequin dress with a crinoline underneath, and a white pillbox hat I have from a past vintage outfit. Finishing it off with white nail wraps (I also ordered some red Christmas plaid ones for an accent nail, but I managed to lose them). So this year’s outfit will be white on white on white!

I will have the Nikon out for both events so I can do a post for you after Christmas to show you all of the spreads, and my complete Christmas outfit. I wish all of you the merriest of Christmases, and strength to endure the rest of the pandemic. Much love to all of you this holiday season.


Thanksgiving Wishes to My Friends and Family

Hello Friends,

Today is Thanksgiving, and I wanted to write a special holiday note to let all of you know how thankful I am for YOU!

Writing is my passion, and this blog is my creative outlet. Without you, my readers, I would not have anyone to share that passion with. So I want to take a moment to let all of you know that I appreciate you, and that I am sending up many thanks and well wishes for you on this holiday. I wish that I could visit with each and every one of you, share a glass of wine or some coffee and pie, chat about life, and sing a Christmas Carol or two to bring forth the upcoming holiday season!

For anyone who may be struggling right now, for whatever reason, you are in my thoughts most of all. I know that for some the holidays are a difficult time, especially if you are missing loved ones. I wish you strength and courage to face whatever is challenging you. I pray for your peace, and for happiness to find its way to you this holiday season. May you be deeply blessed today, and throughout the coming weeks.

For anyone embarking on Black Friday events tomorrow…please be safe, spread kindness, and have fun! I myself will be embarking on Small Business Saturday, since I’m a strong supporter of small businesses. Some of you may not know this, but my day job is processing SBA (Small Business Administration) loans for a local community bank that is a preferred SBA lender. Not only is it a job that blesses me with the ability to own my own home, pay all of my bills, and raise my children as a single mother, but it also allows me to help small business owners make their dreams come true. I love watching our small business customers in my town blossom and succeed!

Cheers and many blessings to you all!



I Did a Cooking Class! And a Long Overdue Garden Update

Hi Friends!

I got to do something this week that I’ve always wanted to do–a cooking class! A few weeks ago I met some friends for after work drinks down the block at Codefi, and then we ventured down to Gabriel’s afterwards for dinner. While we were there we discussed doing a cooking class, and three of us signed up for this past Tuesday’s class.

Gabriel’s is an authentic Italian restaurant in downtown Cape Girardeau, with the most amazing food and atmosphere. He offers cooking classes where you get to learn how to make delicious Italian food while drinking wine and snacking on fresh baked bread, meats and cheeses while cooking. In this class we learned how to make pasta dough from scratch, which became spinach and ricotta ravioli with a mushroom cream sauce.

You guys–it. Was. Incredible!

Now that we know how to make good homemade pasta, I’m ready to go out and buy a pasta maker to roll and cut the dough, and some pasta molds. And then we have to host a friends’ dinner! You really can’t get the same thing from the store bought stuff, and it’s shockingly easy to make. Once the ravioli was filled, sealed, and formed…it took about two minutes in boiling water to cook, before transferring it into the sauce to finish it off.


We were at one long table with 16 other people, and we made friends with the couple sitting across from us. Jenny and I both have gardens out this year and have discussed the thieving squirrel phenomenon that we’ve both been dealing with. The lady sitting across from us, a fellow redhead like myself who we affectionately called Ginger Spice after she told us that when her stepdaughter first met her, she thought she was Ginger Spice, started talking about her garden too.

She has 20 tomato plants out this year–20! And the squirrels have stolen every single tomato from her plants. She said that she has never had this happen before. For whatever reason, they are exceptionally bad this year. I’m not sure if it’s the heat, or if their usual food sources have been depleted due to the weird weather patterns. Whatever the reason may be–they’re raiding everyone’s tomatoes!

I did something I thought I would never do–I threw in the towel. I gave up. I was going to trap the couple of squirrels that have been hanging out in my back yard. I borrowed my grandpa’s traps, put some corn in them for bait, and set them up in my back yard. And it backfired! Sure, I trapped both of the squirrels…but I also attracted half a dozen more with the corn! I looked outside to find both traps with an occupant, and 3-4 more squirrels on the outside trying to get in.

My efforts were futile. I will never be able to capture and relocate that many squirrels, especially when I only have the weekends free to deal with it. So I freed the trapped squirrels, packed up the traps, removed the bird netting from my plants, and said screw it. The squirrels can have them. I’m done fighting it. I thought about buying some chicken wire and making cages to surround the tomato plants, but it’s already mid-July and I currently have zero tomatoes on my plants, not even any baby green ones. By this point, it’s no longer worth the effort.

So next year, I’m going to either do a raised bed enclosed in chicken wire, or I will build chicken wire cages then to put around my container tomatoes. I can report that growing them in pots did have promising results. The blooms and green tomatoes have been plentiful. I just haven’t had the opportunity to bring any to full maturity before they were taken from the vines by a thief in the night…or middle of the day!

It has been a very frustrating gardening year for me this year. The container potatoes I thought would do so well? I dumped the large container and barely had any potatoes. A handful of very small potatoes was it. The green beans are producing, but not very much. I got some lettuce, but not until the end of June. The radishes never formed. My carrots didn’t get more than a couple of inches long. The kale leaves never grew past “baby” stage. And the beets are nothing more than skinny purple roots.

I’m afraid the writing is on the wall…my yard is too shaded. I have a friend who is going to come remove the crabapple tree, so I may get lucky and have a decent crop of fall vegetables in a couple of months. The place in my landscaping where I have the pots of peppers and tomatoes seems to be the only place in my yard where I have any success growing vegetables. And as a lifelong gardener, it is a little heartbreaking that I haven’t been able to grow a successful crop.

Even the watermelon and pumpkin plants I have above the retaining wall are mostly in the shade by early afternoon because of the large trees in my neighbors’ yards, so they aren’t growing much either. By this point the vines should be several feet long and have small watermelons and pumpkins forming. At the rate it’s going, though, I won’t have any fruit before December!

Not all is lost though! I bought several plants for my bee and butterfly garden during the Fourth of July sale at Menards. I’m keeping them nice and healthy in their pots, and will plant them in late August when the hot summer weather starts to wind down and I can transplant them without worry of the high heat killing them. My strawberries are going crazy shooting out runners, and my herbs have all but taken over. I may be resigned to getting all of my vegetables from the farmer’s market, but I at least have fresh herbs to cook them with!

I also need to get moving on my herb drying rack project, because the time to dry and store them is quickly approaching. The only thing that has kept me from getting it done is that I don’t have a saw and need to borrow my dad’s, but he lives 30 miles north and I just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. If there’s one thing I’m basically a master at, it’s procrastinating. It’s a good thing that I work well under pressure!

Case in point – I finally finished painting my living room last weekend. I started this project back in February when both of my sons were home sick with the flu. I didn’t touch it again until last weekend, five months later. And the hallway still isn’t done. If I stick to my prior schedule, then I’m right on track to have it done by Christmas. This is why when I set goals for myself, I write out a specific task list and a schedule to adhere to. If I don’t, it’s not getting done until I “have time”!

Speaking of time – I have plans for the evening that I need to get to, so I have to wrap up this update here. I hope your gardens and lives are all growing well. Until next time…





My Week Long Staycation with My Best Friend, and Other Short Stories

Hi Friends!

First of all, I apologize for going AWOL for the last couple of weeks. I had the week off from work last week and celebrated mine, my grandmother’s and my best friend’s birthdays while I was off. I decided to take a vacation from everything, blogging included, to take full advantage of some downtime. I know that I owe you a Mediterranean Monday post too, and one will be coming next week now that I’m back on duty!

Now for a little life catch-up…

You all know how my 2018 has been going, and last week was proof that the saga continues. We’ve been living in Satan’s armpit here in the Midwest for the last month, with one small break for storms. And take a guess when those storms came…. That’s right, friends–on my week off! It started storming on Saturday afternoon and didn’t stop until early Friday morning. The grand finale was seven hours of no electricity on Thursday afternoon and evening.

And thus was the theme of the week. Rain, storms, more rain and storms, thieving squirrels and power outages. Yet in spite of this, we were lucky enough to get a couple of hours in the middle of the day each day with no rain, and even a little peek of sunshine from time-to-time, so I was able to get outside and get a healthy little summer glow. We also had a break in the weather long enough to have dinner outside on the patio at Saffron for my birthday on Monday.

The biggest plus is that I didn’t have to water my plants, and my rain barrel is completely full! The battle with the squirrels, however, wages on. They hadn’t bothered my tomato plants yet, but that changed last week. They stole every one of my Roma tomatoes, so I went to Menards and bought some bird netting to wrap around the plants. And while that prevented the squirrels from taking off with my tomatoes, it did not stop them from knocking them off the vine in their attempt.

I was secretly grateful that they hadn’t messed with my beloved Brandywine tomatoes, but after the netting was wrapped tightly around them, that’s when they turned their sights on them. I came outside later that day and one of my beautiful green Brandywine tomatoes, only halfway to maturity, was detached from the vine and hanging in the netting. The next day, tomato two of three met its demise, also found hanging in the netting in the same fashion as the first. So far they’ve decided not to try their luck on my last tomato, but only time will tell if they’ve given up or are just reevaluating their method of attack before coming back for more.

As much as the weather and the squirrels tried to suck the fun out of my week, I’m happy to report that they failed. In fact, last week was one of the best I’ve had in a while. It began with coffee on Monday morning, which led to me walking around Aldi in a distracted haze with a dumb smile on my face. I even drove off and left my Smoked Gouda behind in the shopping cart! My week had an unexpected and really great start, with an equally great and smile-inducing middle.

I’ll leave you with that touch of ambiguity and move on to the climax of the week–my best friend came to visit for a few days! We’ve been best friends for 18 years and our birthdays are only two days apart, so her annual visit has become a tradition for us in the years since my divorce and relocation to Southeast Missouri. She made it into town on Thursday evening, mid-power outage. Ameren estimated our power would be back on by 6:30, so we went and bought groceries for the weekend, only to come home at 6:40 to find no electricity and the updated time of restoration set for 9:00.

We had our cold items in an insulated bag, so I opened the refrigerator door (by this time sitting without running for four hours), shoved the bag in, and slammed it shut before too much cold air could escape. Since I have an electric stove, we had no way to cook the food we had just bought and ended up having to go out for dinner. Which was okay by me because it gave us an excuse to meet up with my friend Trevor for some Mexican food at El Sol…where they had both electricity and air conditioning!

As we were paying our bill at El Sol, I received a phone call from Ameren at 7:45 letting me know that my power was back on. Our food wouldn’t be spoiled, we would have air conditioning, and could “Netflix and Chill” for the evening. Or at least, that was the plan…

We came home, took the food out of the insulated bag and put it away right, then sat down in the living room and kicked on the TV. 90’s sitcoms have been my theme for the last few weeks (I just finished Full House while on vacation, and have since started Family Matters–childhood throwbacks!), so we landed on F.R.I.E.N.D.S., settled in with a glass of wine and hit play. About 10 minutes into the pilot episode, during yet another storm, the power went out. Then came back on. Went out again. Came back on. Then went out and stayed out. We’d had electricity for exactly an hour and were in the dark again.

We gave it up and went to bed at 9:00. The air conditioner and the refrigerator had both ran for an hour so we were relatively worry free. This outage, at least, only lasted for two hours, bringing the grand total of time without electricity on Thursday to seven hours.

On Friday we woke up to find the rain (finally) gone. The lingering humidity had us under a heat advisory for the next few days, with the daily heat index lingering around 105. Our birthday celebratory plans included hanging out on the deck at a winery that sits along the Mississippi River, so we changed things up a bit and opted for a table indoors, and the birthday fun went on as planned. After the winery, our friends came over to my place for cake and some patio drinking–after the sun disappeared beyond the trees and stopped trying to boil us alive. We were even able to light a fire in the firepit once it got close to dark.

I can’t say enough about my best friend, Amy. Her visit every year is something I look forward to for months. I go from being a completely chill, outdoorsy, semi-hippie-like female full of lame wise cracks, to a goofy, outspoken, gangsta rap-loving, carpool karaoke-ing wild child. She brings out a side of me that seldom surfaces at any other time. She is my person. My ride-or-die. The Thelma to my Louise. The yin to my yang. We are polar opposites, and yet somehow cut from the same cloth. It is rare in life to find someone who truly “gets” you, but I have that person in her.

Her visits always pass far too quickly. Before we knew it, Sunday morning rolled around and she had to go home; she back to her life and I back to mine.

Until next year…